Life, photos but not the universe

Just in case

I don’t get back to the machine tonight, I’m wishing you all a very happy and joyful and peaceful (but not too quiet) and generally wonderful New Year.

xxx and ((((all you lovely people)))) you’ve made my previous years a whole lot nicer and more interesting.  Thank you.

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Tripping the light fantastic.

I’m quickly squeezing a post in between Eldest and GIGi being out and dinner being required.  Oh.  Too late, they’re back.

We have that situation where the leftover food is equal to more than the sum of its parts.  However, it still seems to be true that the curvature of space inside the fridge and freezer is – um?  more curved? – than that on the outside.  In other words we haven’t quite reached the point at which there is more food to be eaten up urgently than we can manage but it can’t go on much longer.  Actually I suppose, in a minute I will need to go and pack up all the food that hasn’t been eaten tonight and decide how best to fit it into whatever space is left.  Surely there is some.

In the small hours, last night, the trip switch tripped and all the lights went out.  And the washing machine and computer and dishwasher and freezer went off as well, obviously.  So I flipped the switch back up and everything except the computer (which has more sense) started up and carried on washing and freezing etc.  After a minute, it tripped again and everything went out or off*.  So I turned off the dishwasher and the washing machine and tripped the switch merrily back up and the lights stayed on and the freezer started humming again.  Then I rang the Southern E  just to see if there was an external explanation for this and got a lengthy inquisition into who and where I was and since no outages had been reported, an even more lengthy explanation of how I should check all our appliances and turn them all off and back on one by one and so on.  I hadn’t the heart to say I was just trying to eliminate the outside world before starting on our side of the wall.

Eventually I decided to leave everything off, as I didn’t want the switch to trip again and all the food in the fridge to get warm and runny, and went to bed.  Just after I fallen asleep  Barney got up to go to the loo, came back and switched the light on (Oh good – still working – yawn) and reset his alarm.  Clever.

The others all got up early this morning to go shooting with Mr and Mrs Youngest (clay pigeons, not furry or feathery stuff) so when I came downstairs later, I found:-

A lot of breakfast washing heaped up everywhere, a big pile of Eldest and GIGi’s washing on the floor in front of the washing machine, a strong smell of kippers and an even stronger smell of smoke and the grill, closed, switched on low and containing a bit of evil, black, burnt kipper smelling foil.  And of course, some half-washed crockery and clothes in their various machines.  After making appropriate comments to the cat (who pointed out that she hadn’t been fed yet and didn’t care about burnt kipper or Eldest’s red pyjamas) and disposing of all traces of said kipper, I gingerly switched on the machines, one by one.  No tripping.  Then the computer.  Still no tripping.

~ Well, probably I’ll never know what did it.


Having written that sentence, I went and emptied the washing machine which had finished the job, put some of Eldest’s bright red clothes in it and set it to wash.  After  a few minutes I wandered back and noticed that it wasn’t doing anything except hum.  At an unusual pitch.  A minute passed on it’s display.  I stared at it and it hummed back.

~ Ok.  So now I probably know what did it.


A little later, I noticed that the dishwasher had been chuntering away at the same pitch for a very long time.  There followed mental arithmetic concerning when I might have switched it on and the conclusion that it ought to be finished.  Slightly baffled, I went out to do some shopping and returned to learn that the water is off.  Obviously, both dishwasher and washing machine are unhappy without water so, um

~ probably I’ll never know what did it.


Eventually the water came back and I was able to start all the machinery again and it all seems to be working and the switch is sulking because it has no excuse to trip merrily.  In the meantime, the kitchen is heaped high with things that we couldn’t wash when there was no water and now haven’t time to wash as dinner is occupying my brain cell to the exclusion of washing and most other things  (but not blogging).

No problem really.  I do have to spend four hours or so ferrying Eldest and GIGi to Gatwick tomorrow morning and simultaneously clean the house and prepare some of the party food but I’m sure we’ll cope.  It’s just that my brain cell is still trying to work out what caused the flippin switch to trip in the first (and second) place(s).


There’s a picture.  A chilly, late afternoon canal – from the bridge – no boats this time.

*There must be a conundrum about this.  What can be off or on or out  but never in?  (And why not???)  Meanwhile, the whole out/off /on thing is making me imagine all the light fittings and appliances briskly setting off, out into the garden or up the road and then turning back, only to find that they can’t come in.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Keep this post away from small children.

Sometimes I like Christmas Eve and this has been one of the best.  True, I didn’t get the hoovering done but on the other hand the last present was wrapped by, ooh something like 9.30.  And true, I had to drive into Reading to meet Eldest and GIGi so that they could load their huge luggage into the car and then wait while they did the rest of their Christmas shopping but then I got to have coffee with GIGi and visit the hugely tempting tobacconists in the arcade.  The chocolate Yule log probably isn’t going to be light and spongy (I made an error pouring flour) but it certainly looks the part and the amusing pea soup is yummy.  And Eldest and GIGi are here and Eldest fixed my wireless router and it’s such fun to have them around.  And if Mr Youngest doesn’t feel like coming it won’t matter that his was the only present not to arrive in time (I keep looking at the DHL tracking site and it’s still – apparently- “processing completed at Des Plaines, IL.  pfthtt!*)

Right.  Later there will be all or most of the others and who knows, I may find time to hoover between breakfast and the descent of the hordes.  Oh.  Must get the pudding out and find the redcurrant jelly for Barney.

And now it is – ooh, the day after the day after.  (D’you know, I think I see double if I’m not wearing my specs – there are far too many full stops here.  Still, two of any of you is definitely a bonus.  Lots of bonuses   Yes, I have had a drink and so you can rely on my verity).  Also, I have got up with the grandchildren (horribly early) and driven some of us home and then driven some of us to Oxford to do their other Christmas shopping**.  And then back again, of course.  And then, as Barney had made the pie filling and felt that that was sufficient, I’m doing the rest of the dinner.  Eldest says he reads between the lines when he reads my blog but there’s no need for any betweens here is there?

Well, to go back a meal or two, if anyone  tells you the amuse bouche thingie is just a trifle to make you all snigger, (did I?) let me now admit that it’s all about making everyone go Ooh! and Ah! and Wow!  And blow me if they didn’t!   It was only pea and mint soup after all (and it had turned into pea mousse overnight in the fridge), but it really did get a reaction.  I am a smug bunny.  The rest of the dinner was also fantastic (mostly – I was right about the chocolate sponge but then, who would expect a log to be light and fluffy?) and Barney’s kipper patties were worth the several hours we both spent removing tiny bones although they were more a kind of kipper hash brownie and I discovered on Boxing Day that we hadn’t really taken all the bones out (some of them had set up residence in the part of my gums which harbours a recurrent abscess – not a problem as by the time I’d sobered up, the paracetamol had cured it)

We had a lovely Boxing Day with all the Youngests and the Middles and the Eldests and all the children.  The children were all consistently delightful and affectionate and they’ve done us all a power of good.  And Youngest’s Boxing Day dinner was scrummy.  And HUGE!  Just as well I went out the next day or I’d still be lying down in hopes of it subsiding.  We admired Hester Blumenthal’s cookbook which is huge and elegantly and solidly bound  (Barney knows a chef who has a copy and pleased us all a good deal by saying that it’s quite useless as a recipe book though a very entertaining read).

And here is evidence that you should really practice panning before pointing the iphone.  And possibly get your subjects to stay still.


Eldest instructed me on the best wireless router to replace the (very) old one that was beginning not to work – I think that was the last computer ‘bit’ that’s never been replaced yet.  About ten years it’s been working away there which is pretty impressive in computer-part terms.  I now have a flashing blue thingie which I may have to cover up with a bag but which seems to work.

Otherwise, it’s all over bar the gallons of tea and various competing elements in the kitchen.  Eldest and GIGi plan to make dinner for us tomorrow – on past experience this could be a good thing or a disaster.  Barney has gone stamp hunting at an auction and I am chilling.  Well, to be honest, I’m lazing and slouching and occasionally rousing myself just enough to play with a Christmas present or two before sinking back into sloth.  Eldest is watching a Very Good Film.  Something about a man with his hand stuck in a rock for 127 hours?  When some of the particularly brilliant aspects of it were described to me last night, I decided to avoid it altogether.  GIGi is keeping him company – I hope she doesn’t get nightmares.

Oh well, I’d better go and shower and have more (much more) coffee and go shopping before Eldest drinks us dry of tea and milk.

So I took Eldest and GIGi into town to get their ingredients and obtained, for Barney, the last copy of ‘Stamp and Coin Mart’, a magazine in which there is an article by one of the members of the Thatcham Philatelic Society – oh, of which he is chairman, so it’s not completely random.  It seems there is a Penny Red which couldn’t possibly ever have been printed but which has been examined by a number of forgery experts who declare that it couldn’t possibly be forged.    And now Eldest and GIGi are slicing and chopping and frying and I’m so glad I wolfed down a couple of slices of ham before they started cooking.  Ooh and in a minute they’re going to pour the brandy in and make fire.  Should I stay or should I escape now?  Oh, not yet – Adam’s iphone bonged which means it’s not time for the brandy yet.  When it bings I’ll run away go and look.


Well, in the event it was quite exciting – too much fire as Eldest just explained to GIGi – but it was ok, he was able to move it to a lower level so the flames didn’t reach the ceiling.  I was busy calculating how long it would take to reach and soak a tea towel but it all blew over quite quickly – well, brandy does doesn’t it.  Oh, did I ever tell you about the time I found Eldest  aged about six, crouched underneath his captain’s cabin-style bunk bed, making a fire in a small tobacco tin and melting candles into it?  There’s a website isn’t there, called “hundreds of dangerous things you should let your children do”?***  Fire is one of them.  Of course children should play with fire else how are they ever going to understand how it works?   It’s a symptom of the way we live that we don’t spend time playing with fire with our children but, instead, make laws to stop them ever handling a match or a lighter or a candle****.  Stupid stupid.  Not keeping them away from danger but failing miserably in spending time with them and teaching safety.  (Mind, I wasn’t teaching Eldest much when I discovered him with his little camp fire underneath his bed, I just yelled at him and poured water on it.  And to be fair, he’d already grasped various essentials, like not putting his flames on the carpet and only feeding small amounts of fuel and candle to the fire.  Quite a bright little arsonist really.  He’s always been keen on working things out from first principles).

Right, well, the casserole is now completely doused with wine and simmering gently so I think it’s safe to go and lie down for a bit.

Oh yes.  Perfectly safe.  Dinner was very good and once it was all done and they’d all been to the pub and come back, I went to sleep and didn’t wake up till very very late today – now, um, Saturday?  Yes. Saturday.  And do you know?  I’m not going to drive them to Oxford again to make teddy bears.  They can borrow the car and take themselves.  I feel that I didn’t quite get to finish my chilling (slopping, slouching and sloth – ing) yesterday  so I’m going to do a bit more today.  You too, have a lovely peaceful day.

*And it’s the same ones I waited for in Reading the day before.  I am a good old Mum, yes?

**It still hasn’t arrived but he liked the picture I downloaded to show him)

***Well, I think it’s actually ten but you get the idea.

****Yes I know some parents aren’t particularly bright when it comes to flames and fire but perhaps no one taught them anything useful either.

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments


That’s all : )

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Amuse bouche

Youngest sent me a link to this about two years ago and I just found it again.  Amuse?  There are still tears of laughter running down my face.  Do look!  I’m going to keep it as an antidote to everything.  Feel free to skip the rest of the post – I’m just rabbiting on about nothing much.

Ok, back to my world.   The first time we were offered an amuse bouche was at a hotel restaurant with a bit of a reputation for Very Good Food.  We had no idea what the tiny cup of brown liquid was all about (or whether we would have to pay extra for it – no problem there, the prices would have covered dozens of little amusements).  It was a mushroom cappuchino and very nice indeed.  And I think it’s a lovely idea though we don’t often go to the sort of place where you get them.   In fact I can’t remember another.  Shame.

Anyway, Youngest makes them for special occasions (like Boxing Day.  Yay!) and they’re lovely – usually tiny soups in glasses.  And while Barney is getting into the idea of yet more roast beef and orkshires, I’m toying with the idea of amusing our bouches to begin.  So I tried to make a mushroom cappuchino.  It took forever to find a recipe and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for and sadly, the light creamy mushroom puree didn’t float appetisingly on the dark, clear intense porcini liquid.  Instead it glubbed heavily to the bottom of the glass and looked a trifle alien.  Tasted pretty fantastic though.  I can have the rest for lunch.

So tomorrow I’m going to try chilled pea and mint soup.  And I might try and make some alcoholic ice to drop in it.  I’m not sure if you can do that actually?  Oh yes, of course you can – wine freezes quite adequately as you discover when you forgot to stop chilling it in the freezer.  But while soup in tiny glasses is a nice thought, I suddenly began to think of other little things that I could make (maybe one day).


tiny meat balls (about broad bean sized) with a salad of those little growing leaves

tiny sauteed potatoes with a cheese sauce (or something runny that goes with potatoes)

tiny chips with lemon mayonnaise

fennel soup with little slivers of pork crackling.

I even wondered about tiny scotch eggs – smaller than quails eggs – you’d have to inject the egg into them but I can’t see what you’d do about the whites.   Well it’s supposed to be amusing right?

Any suggestions?

Oh well, there really isn’t time to try all these things before Christmas and anyway there wouldn’t be time or space to play with little bits of frying and crisping and shaping while the Big Dinner is getting under way.  The pea soup can be made the day before.

Other new Christmassy stuff was the decorations.  When the outside lights turned out to be broken, Barney went off to get more and it didn’t occur to me to say whatever you do, don’t get coloured flashing lights because we both like nice, simple, white ones that do’t do anything complicated.  So I was stunned into silence when I came home later to see a virulent, purple glow emanating from our row of houses.  And gobsmacked when I realised that the purple glow was our new christmas lights (blue, he says).  Well they don’t flash which is good otherwise we’d think there was an ongoing emergency here.  (There is, of course, but I’m sure an accident can be arranged before next year).  Yes well, I should have done it myself.

Now the board from which the coats hang has fallen off the wall.  Barney is up there wielding a ruler, pencil, ladder, drill, all those things which will restore order to our tiny hall.  And maybe we’ll throw out some coats.

There are two presents which were ordered in time (so the websites told me) and haven’t arrived yet.  I am NOT panicking.  But I don’t think Mr Youngest will be impressed with a pair of socks, especially as his aren’t the cool fluffy ones I’ve got for all the rest of the family.   Actually, I’m not sure they will be either as when the socks arrived I had a sneaking suspicion that I got the sizes wrong.

Else?  It’s a bit wet isn’t it.  But not cold which will help a lot in the choosing of suitably Christmassy clothing to wear tonight – we’re going out for drinks and nibbles and I wonder, should we eat first or not???.  After the mass throw-out of clothing last year when I lost weight,  I seem not to have anything bright and cheerful to wear.  And so far, I haven’t seen anything worth buying except one Monsoon woollie which is very nice but will have to wait for the day itself as it was the only thing I could find for Barney to give me for Christmas – he doesn’t do on-line unless it’s to look at stamps in auctions.  Oh well, it’ll be black with gold thread and a black and silver thread scarf.  Not bright but sort of sparkly.  Or the green cardi and white tee shirt with red and green buttons if it’s still really mild tonight.

I haven’t taken the camera anywhere for days.  Last month there was sunshine – remember?


Ah well.  Nothing like a bit of rain.  (just checking – it’s stopped.  Jolly good).  Don’t get swept away before Christmas will you.

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

And counting

Ook, (typo) so I’ve got four days in which to make sure that everyone is comfortable, well-fed and enjoys the day.  (I know, it’s five but Eldest and GIGi are coming on Christmas Eve and it would be nice not to spend the time with them faffing about.

So Barney and I have written a shopping list which will break the bank (the bank’s shrunk a bit since last year but the list hasn’t) and I’ve half-finished the cards (just taking a coffee break) and nearly all the presents have arrived or been bought.  I’ve put on the heater in the fly room and tonight I will check that this hasn’t brought out a few creeping survivors of the last insecticide*

As I work through the list of cards I keep encountering people who have never been properly addressed because I’ve never known their married/divorced/children’s names and people to whom I haven’t actually spoken for maybe thirty years?  And of course people I’ve never met!  And just recently a group of people who now live abroad but haven’t been moved to that section of the list (yes, so efficient!  Well not so efficient really but it would be if I started doing the cards say, three days before the last post instead of on the morning itself – Oh and that reminds me, I really must wrap the presents before the middle of the night on ChEve because Eldest and GIGi will be all over the place borrowing paper and sellotape and Oh Goodness! – I’ll need four stockings!).  And then I have a little history of each person running through my head as I scribble and sometimes this causes me to write something inappropriate (Wrong name!  Wrong initial!!  Wrong title!!!) on the envelope.  Then there’s the scribble.  It’s ok if it’s just the names, after all how many B*scribble*ys and M*scribble*gs does anyone know.  And of course they know who they are themselves so it shouldn’t be too hard to work out the ‘To’ bit.  (Unless I’ve put the card in the wrong envelope).  But if I am moved to write a message it’s quite possible that the result will baffle or even offend.

Oh Lord!  There’s another whole page to do.  (I thought one or two people were missing from the B’s and C’s.)  I need more coffee.  Much more!

Fact is, although I claim to be very disorganised and absent minded, this is really an excuse.  What I am is lazy.  I  have engraved in my mind from long ago, an overheard conversation between my parents in which they tried to decide if I was lazy or stupid – there’s a clue about what kind of child I was.  Later it became clear that I wasn’t very stupid so if those were the only alternatives I must have been lazy.  This is a bad thing to be so for many years I put out the suggestion that I might be endearingly (or infuriatingly) absent minded and disorganised in the hope of disguising my laziness and pretty much convinced even myself that it was true.   But quite recently a friend pointed out that on occasion I can be extremely organised and Barney started getting exasperatingly soothing and relaxed whenever I suddenly speeded up in order to be prepared for a holiday or a major event (because I suddenly wasn’t laid back any more).  Now, it seems to me that as long as the cloak of  laziness can be dropped as required it isn’t necessarily an evil thing (surely it’s good to exercise the spouse’s tolerance now and then).  And, of course, the choice that matters is, when and for what is one prepared to make the effort.**

Right.  I’ve finished the cards and posted them.  (Can you believe it took me nearly a whole day?)  I’ve sent an email to the people whose card I read after the posting which told me their new address (but not any new email addresses they may have).  Now I’m going to lie down and read for half an hour (approximately – never accuse me of being pernickety about time – Oh, spell check doesn’t like pernickety but offered me persnickety which sounds to me like a mash up of snippy and pernickety with something about gate latches squeezed in).  Oh and I’ve just realised there are some cards which I didn’t write because I’d  hand written who they were for on the back of the list and not updated the list because the computer has lost the file***.  Well you will know who they’re for when the cards arrive after Christmas!

Here’s a bit of fun in B&W




Now I must put some washing in and lie down for a bit with a book (did I say that already   Maybe I did that already.  Well I’ll do it again then).  I’m getting the impression that everyone else is much more advanced with their preparations than me so I’ll just say Goodnight  (but if you’re not, Good Luck)

*This should be a word that means mass killing of insects as well as one that means stuff to kill masses of insects, shouldn’t it?  Is it?

**Equally one could say that so many things are important and need doing that everyone should be working as hard as they can all the time in order to help save the children, the old folks, the refugees, the victims and the world.  I haven’t, yet, decided to be that good.

***Complete retyping job – I really must try and do it before next Christmas

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments


I’m all wound up ready to go.  Unfortunately, I don’t have to go until 2.30 and it’s only 11.30.  Also unfortunate, when tightly wound, I tend to go flop rather than snap.  I would make a lousy spring.*

It’s the end of term concert and I allowed myself to be inveigled into playing a solo.  Really not a big deal – especially as it’s an “easy” concerto.  I do it partly because it seems ridiculous never to display the skills I spent ten years learning when I was 35, even if they are now rather rusty and squeaky.  And partly because my fiddle teacher works like a dog every Saturday to get our wildly assorted group to produce some nice sounds and it’s only fair to make an attempt to add something other than grade one exam pieces to the end of term do.  And of course it’s nice for the tinies to see that even the grown ups get the wobbles when confronted with an audience.

On the other hand, most of the audience are only there to listen to their little darlings performing so they really aren’t highly critical, or even listening.  The rest of the audience are us and we all understand what we feel like!  (Well the younger ones maybe don’t and I expect fourteen year old David is baffled because he still  appears to have childrens’ nerves; loose and flexible.  He will probably play a showy and difficult piece of Beethoven or Mozart at the end.)

Oh well, I’d better go and practice again.  Not that it’ll make any difference but if my brain, my fingers or my bow go awol halfway through the piece, it’ll help if I vaguely remember where to put them back.

A couple of early morning visitors





Oh good.  It went all right.  And fourteen year old David played the last movement of Vivaldi’s Spring concerto and a Beethoven piano sonata.  There was a tot of about three who played something very anxiously – waiting for Teach to tell him which note to play before doing it very quietly  (fortunately there were only half a dozen notes to choose from and it wasn’t very long).  Actually there were several tinies who all hung on Teacher’s every gesture and had long pauses for finger rearrangement and note finding.  A little chinese girl who played a very nice Bach cello minuet (all by herself and very competently).  Two very tall and willowy girls played nice pieces, sweetly and quietly and little Josh played violin and piano pieces with considerable verve and not at all quietly.  And all the group pieces ended up in time – no last notes embarrassingly happening after every one had finished.  All very satisfactory.  Phew!

Right.   Now all that’s sorted and in the past (a great place the past) I can return to the present and start faffing about Christmas, presents, cards, food, shopping, panicking and trying to find out when Eldest and GIGi are coming.  And what she would like for Christmas.   Actually I have done some of the cards even though the printer has run out of black so I can’t use my painstakingly created address labels till I’ve got some more.  It’s ok – I can get some tomorrow and write them on Wednesday and catch the last post on Thursday.    Oh and now I know when Eldest and GIGi are coming though I have only a vague idea of what to get her for a present – something to do with art he said.  Hmm.  Oh but I’m much more organised than I sound!  Compared to last year anyway.  I believe Barney and I have to make a plan for Christmas dinner – the whole family are coming – Yay!  I’d better sort out some bedding and kill some flies and bag up stuff to take to the dump.

Onwards and upwards then.  To bed in fact, so that I can be refreshed and ready for bedding and junk in the morning.  Sleep well.

*But that’s ok because nobody has asked me to be springy recently.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments


Gorgeous Grandbaby is now a toddler.  I think this is a slightly misleading description as it implies that a two year old is spending most of it’s time and energy on some kind of intermediate walking.  Actually it seems to me that the walking is pretty much a done thing.  What she’s mostly doing is refining and developing language.  She used to offer me things that she found difficult, with big, expectant eyes and then progressed to saying “Holp”.  Yesterday she said, very distinctly “I can’t do it”*.  (Which was true – she’s not a quitter – it was very firmly screwed up, probably to stop her opening it without adult supervision).  Then she held it towards me and said “Holp” which was a relief because it’s one of my favourite things that that she says.  I often find it hard to understand her, not being a parent in constant attendance so I have to make wild and sometimes entertaining guesses from context.  Sometimes my stupidity is distressing – if I keep guessing the wrong food, for instance or fail utterly to understand that what she wants is for me to show her ‘In the night garden’ on my iPhone**.   But she has a lot of patience with me, carefully repeating the incomprehensible word or phrase many times, with an intent look and sometimes pointing helpfully to give me the right idea.  I can see her assessing the extent to which I am failing to grasp a simple concept and thinking “Grandma really isn’t very bright but if I keep trying she sometimes catches on”.   Sometimes I can get away with “show Grandma” and she will set off briskly to the fridge or the fruit bowl or the pencil drawer.  I have to say I find this thoughtful and patient behaviour quite extraordinary in someone who is only two and a bit years old.  She is effectively trying to teach me a language which she is still learning herself – as all children must with adults who don’t understand the idiosyncratic pronunciations that come with each child- and she’s teaching like a pro.  Paying close attention, listening carefully and giving as much help as she can.

Of course, the fact that, dim as I am, I don’t have anything else to do while we have these lessons, is a great help and gives me time to be illuminated (metaphorically speaking) .   I remember hoping my children were learning to speak and rushing through assorted attempts at understanding and being very relieved when they began to speak intelligibly (somewhat guiltily enchanted by the babbling that came before, I really thought I should be helping them to speak properly).  They did learn to speak of course  (in fact they’re all quite good at it now) but I didn’t have time to appreciate the enormous problems and brilliant solutions they must have handled while I tried to feed, cloth and keep track of them and often misunderstood what must have seemed to them to be very straightforward requests and explanations.

I’ve believed for years that speaking, singing and laughing have an instant and physical effect on the person doing it.  (A good effect I mean).    It wasn’t my own idea, of course – just think of the Reader’s Digest***.  My theory is that the expulsion of air in a constructive way is good for you – a sort of expressive extension of breathing.   After all, expelling air is always a good thing isn’t it? – who want to be full of  wind  (yes, I knew everyone would get that bit).   And breathing is definitely good for you.  Anyway, I’,m enjoying the Gorgeous child’s adventure in speech (and she sings too though her rhythm is more recognisable than her melodies) and I was the first person for whom she produced a full-on chuckle (a whole row of them in fact – it made me feel as if I’d suddenly become the funniest person in the world).   And today she opened the door to the hall and said, with a raised finger, “Just one minute”.  Wonderful altogether.   Almost a compensation for having to drive off through a frosty wonderland without the smallest chance to stop and take photos.

Tomorrow there may be frost pictures.  Today I’m in a panic, having taken photos out of the window when I got up but then having to hurtle off down the frozen A4 to toddler-mind, so  here is a sunset from last December.


And a couple of people doing inadvisable things in floods



WordPress has a new interface for adding media (photos).  It not only looks different but behaves differently so I’m struggling a bit to get things to happen like they used to.  Especially as it seems to behave differently every time I use it.  Never mind.   I think it’s worked out this time.

Right.  Got to go and practice.  I’ve let myself be persuaded into playing a sort of solo at the Christmas concert this year – on Saturday.  I must be mad.

*It could be that she’s learnt this from me – “I cant find the chocolate cake” – “I can’t make the Television work” – “I can’t open the packet of extremely salty/sweet/expensive/alcoholic, biscuits/pate/chocolates/whatever” – “I can’t find the stickers” (which I’m really a bit fed up with having stuck on my nose).  It’s ok, there are lots of things I can do which we both like.

**Which is fair enough because I haven’t got it on my iphone, or anywhere else for that matter.

***For those of you who are too young to remember it, Reader’s Digest was full of short stories , sort of interesting information and a readers’  funny story section called “Laughter is the Best Medicine”.  A kind of old-fashioned, hard copy wikipedia.


December 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

stamps, chocolate and chilli

As I was typing a post just now, Barney appeared, beaming gently and said “it is I”.  This doesn’t mean he thinks I might have forgotten that he is who he is (not so unlikely as I seems to forget who almost everyone is these days).  It means he’d like me to set up a page for him to display stamps.

So while I faffed around with the template for penny black covers, he fried some potatoes in spices to have with the Kerala Chicken stew which I prepared earlier (well, I got it out of the freezer).  (Wow!  spellcheck knows how to spell Kerala).

As the Kerala chicken is quite mild, he fried the potatoes with quite a lot of chilli powder, which is fine.  Only I don’t think much of the chilli will be in the potato dish as most of it seemed to be floating on  the steam around the kitchen and indeed into the dining room (which is also my computer room and does all kinds of other jobs too – it’s a very useful room, usually an excellent place in which to hide from excess chilli ).  Came sounds of sneezing and coughing from the kitchen along with the very strong aroma, well  really a whole atmosphere, of chilli (with a hint of coriander and cumin and a dash of lemon).

Shortly after, Barney appeared, wreathed in chilli fumes, and attempted to dictate a lot of text about the Plate 1d Penny Black on a cover going from Broughton Ferry to Dundee.  There was a lot of coughing and spluttering and it was easier to read what he’d written than to do it straight.  And probably, the potato curry won’t make up for the mildness of the Kerala chicken because most of the heat is either in the dining room, the garden (opening the kitchen window became an urgent requirement for him in the kitchen who wanted to breathe) or in his chest.  I always find it’s a good idea to turn the heat down a lot before adding chilli powder to a fry up but then I’m not as hardy as some.  Now Barney has found it convenient to go and watch TV while I heat up the chicken and the rice but that’s just because he’s done his bit.  Nothing to do with escaping from the chilli.  Not at all.

It was delicious and delicately and pleasantly spicy.

Speaking of wonderful smells (wasn’t I?) that was last week and as I’ve been G’baby minding today, Barney’s cooking again.  I left a vague suggestion for him, should he wish to accept it, involving chicken, mustard, wine and créme fraiche.  It seems he accepted most of it, though he didn’t say what he’d missed out, and the smell is driving me wild.  He says it can simmer for a long time but honestly, I’m not sure I can wait!  And did I mention that he made Duck confit for my birthday dinner?  That was pretty wonderful too and the girls both made chocolate cakes (lack of communication there.  But one came with Grand Marnier and the other with a choc-coffee ganache*;  yummy x 2).  And as I write, he’s phoning a local pub to book us a table for the ‘Office Party’.  Well it’s not often that all six of us actually meet, about once a year in fact at the christmas party.  Us rural types quite like to have an annual pause in the oo-arr lifestyle and get together over a gourmet pub dinner.

We’re a funny bunch.  Barney is a Maths graduate  turned thatcher, me, well you know what I am, Dave is a genuine, been-in-the-family-for-generations-traditional thatcher, his wife is the daughter of a Scottish millionaire, Jack the lad (no longer the apprentice) is a world beating fisherman (really – he’s been to America and Canada and won prizes) and his girlfriend has a very rich step father*.  I must add that all three blokes are ever so good-looking and in the past, when Barney was just beginning to go dashingly grey and Dave was quite gypsy-ishly black haired and swarthy, customers often assumed that they were father and son.  Since Jack is blonde and rosy-cheeked I guess the customers must think he’s a happy accident.

Anyway, Barney is mashing things.  And complaining about putting the celeriac through a sieve.  (My fault – I don’t believe in mashed celeriac). In case you didn’t notice, I’m ever so hungry.  Ravenous even.  Probably we can watch Master Chef while we eat – but what’s on our plates (now I’ve intervened in the matter of the celeriac) would be good enough to put in front of Michele any day (as long as it was his day off).



Oops!  Pressed publish instead of save while dreaming about butter cream.  I think I need chocolate cake.

*Of course in my day we called that buttercream.  But it’s just as good as any rose.

**Dreadfully lax characterisation there but over the years (and only once a year) I’ve met so many apprentices’ girlfriends that they all run into each other.

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

When I’m 62

Well I am actually, as of last Saturday.

It was really lovely, Mr and Mrs Middle and Little Middle came for dinner and so did Youngest but her children were all with their other parents and Mr Youngest didn’t come either which caused a bit of parental stress (us, that is, not them).  We had a brilliant evening though and had lots of laughs (particularly when Youngest and Mrs Middle started conversing in operatic mode and after a bit I joined in with the lower harmonies (I’ve never sung much above alto and I can manage something like the next thing down if I have to).  Mr Middle found it a bit difficult because he doesn’t really sing (and Barney had gone to bed already – it was quite late) but we three had a ball.  I was reminded that Mozart was reputed to have said the wonder of opera is that you can have fifteen people having a furious argument and it sounds wonderful – even when they start killing each other.  No, I made that last bit up.  I don’t think there are many murders in Mozart operas?

We (the Bardsleys) are more prone to singing folk and blues as a rule but one of my sisters and her seven children are all seriously musical – that’s serious in it’s true meaning – one of the girls is an established opera singer and three of them earn their livings with classical music in one form or another and indeed my sister teaches singing and so do both her husbands.  Um, ex husbands*.  I would have liked it if they (the family, not the ex’s) could have been there last night.

Personally, I find opera difficult.  My Mother had a lovely, natural voice and sang while she washed up and my ideal voice would be something like hers, unforced and untrained.  There are some things you never grow out of.

Oh well.  Today (Monday, that was)  the car has gone for a service at an unreasonable hour and I’m borrowing the little car to go and meet my sister in Reading and then do some C word shopping.  Oh and that reminds me I must ring my half-sister and thank her for her present.   And that reminds me …Oh bother I’ve forgotten.  It’s that time of year; lots of things to do and lots of things happening and I spend much of my time forgetting the one and then the other and then remembering when I’m in the middle of something else.    My lists get so long they disappear over the page and my phone is constantly reminding me about stuff.  Oh I’ve remembered.  We’re going to a quiz tonight.  We’ll have to eat early and I can’t for the life of me think when would be a good time to phone half-sister.

Time passed and now it’s Tuesday night.  I had to tell Barney that his little car sounds unwell.  Graunching (what an excellently onomatopoeic word) could be put down to bare brakes if it didn’t carry on after the braking but it seems to be going on nearly all the time.  I fear some sort of shaft or universal joint is wearing out and I’m very glad that my car returned from its service today.

We went to the quiz and realised after about five questions that it was the same one the pub had run last year.  You’d think that we (along with most of the other competitors) would therefore have been able to answer all the questions correctly.  Instead we found that what we didn’t know last year, we still don’t. We could remember a lot of the alternative answers we’d come up with last year but not whether they were correct.

So here are some bit of Christmas Quiz.** (Don’t look at the ** now unless you want the answers first)

1) How many points has a snowflake

2) What’s the German for Christmas tree

3) Who turned on the Christmas lights in Oxford St in 2001

4) Two become One:  Too much:  …. what’s next in the sequence

5) Only male reindeer have antlers – true or false

6) Which country was the first to introduce the tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas

7) Who had the most number 1’s  in the hit charts at Christmas in the sixties.

8) What was the name of the Simpson’s dog

9) Where did St Nicklaus come from originally before he became Santa Claus.

10)  What vegetable could be found in Christmas pudding (probably still is).

Sadly, we didn’t win.  At all.  Not even nearly.

It’s a bit chilly isn’t it.  I need to start doing my pre C word headless chicken impression.  And to put some more clothes on and turn the heating on and and and …..





…. add some pictures.  How very seasonal of the robin to come and sit near me.

Goodnight.  Sleep well.

*I may have mentioned once or twice that my family is seriously (current, popular usage this time) weird.

** Quiz answers below

1) Snowflakes still have six points, not eight and I feel that the manufacturers of Christmas tree decorations ought to get their snowflakes right because the image of an eight pointed snowflake from some Christmas tree of my youth is engraved on the inside of my head and I may never be able to answer that one correctly.

2) As it happens, we played an arrangement of Oh Tannenbaum on Saturday.  So if Baume is Tree, what does the Tannen bit mean?

3) and 4) We totally forgave ourselves for not knowing either of these.  I mean girl bands – teeny girl bands even? Who cares?  Sclub7 and a spice Girls hit – sorry, I can’t remember what it was called.

5)   I blame Mr Attenborough for getting this wrong – all those shots of antler-less reindeer trekking through arctic wastes.  Anyway, it’s false according to the quiz master.  However, I just looked it up and it seems there are a few populations in which the females lack antlers completely.  So it’s a silly question.

6) Italy jumped straight into some of our heads but we couldn’t remember if that was last year’s correct answer or something we’d dreamed up.  I couldn’t see why we would ever have thought of Italy so most probably it was last year’s correct answer – remembered because it was so surprising.  And it was.

7) So there was lengthy discussion about whether the Beatles had the most hit singles at Christmas or not (on the basis that they had so many hits that lots of them would have arrived at  Christmas by default).  They did.  And what’s more they had a number 1 and number 2 in 1963 and 1967, an entirely irrelevant piece of information I discovered when checking which decade I’m talking about.

8)  Santa’s Little Helper. Fancy that!  That would be a bit of a mouthful to be calling around the streets.

9) I was astonished to learn (again) that St Nicklaus came from Turkey because I was (still) quite sure that he was a completely Dutch saint.  

10) Oh well I just threw this one in to make it up to ten.  Carrot would be a good guess even if at least two of us hadn’t had some kind of dim memory of grating carrots for Grandmas.




December 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments